Golden is the Home Rule Municipality that is the county seat of Jefferson County, Colorado, United States. Golden lies along Clear Creek at the base of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. Founded during the Pike's Peak Gold Rush on 16 June 1859, the mining camp was originally named Golden City in honor of Thomas L. Golden. Golden City served as the capital of the provisional Territory of Jefferson from 1860 to 1861, and capital of the official Territory of Colorado from 1862 to 1867. In 1867, the territorial capital was moved about 12 miles (19 km) east to Denver City. The United States Census Bureau estimates that the city population was 18,867 in 2010.
Established as a gold-rush town, Golden City quickly became a leading economic and political center of the region, being a center of trade between the gold fields and the east, a crossroads and gateway of important roads leading to the mountains, and a center of area industry. Golden City was established on 16 June 1859 along Clear Creek west of Denver, named in honor of Thomas L. Golden. Important businessmen and prospectors such as William A.H. Loveland and George West were among the first to settle in Golden. By the end of 1860, Golden City had been popularly elected the seat of Jefferson County and was capital of the provisional Jefferson Territory. As drafted in the territorial constitution, the capital of the Jefferson Territory was initially proposed to be Golden, then with a population of 700, as a result of its proximity to mountain mining towns, and greater ability to hold a congressional quorum than had Denver. Golden City was temporarily removed from the status of territory capital as a result of an act passed on 5 November 1861 by the territorial government. Colorado City, a small town to the south of Denver became the new temporary territorial capital, but saw only one short event at this location. This status was quickly revoked, however, as on 4 August 1862, the territorial government voted formally to move back to Golden.
While the town lost much of its populace and leading citizenry during the American Civil War for several reasons (ranging from military to economic), Golden City became capital of the federally recognized Colorado Territory on 2 August 1862, continuing as such until 1867. It was the time period between 1862 and the early 1870s that a fierce railroad competition developed between Denver, ten miles to the east, and Golden. By the mid-1860s, Golden held only an honorific status as territorial capital rather than serve as the legitimate source of territorial power. Denver, the increasingly larger and more developed city, was the focused core of important territorial occasions, with the Governor residing in Denver, and territorial government meetings occurring there as well. The citizens and supporters of Golden realized that a spur from Golden to the new transcontinental railroad, running through Cheyenne, Wyoming, 100 miles to the north, was the only possibility for Golden to reemerge as the dominant heart of commerce in the territory. W.A.H. Loveland founded the Colorado Central Railroad on 9 February 1865 to do just this. With Golden beginning talk of creating a railroad, prominent Denver residents raced to do the same. In an appeal to the residents of Denver, The Rocky Mountain News, which was based in Denver itself, wrote an article imploring the citizens of Denver to vote to fun a railroad; “If we vote $500,000 in bonds to the Denver Pacific railway all is well. If we defeat those bonds, all hope of a railroad for the next two years is gone… Gentlemen of Denver, what will you do? The fate of your city is in your own hands.” The residents of Denver voted for the bonds, spurring construction of the Denver Pacific Railway. By 1869, the railroad race to Cheyenne was becoming less and less of a race, as the Denver Pacific Railway pulled ahead of the struggling Colorado Central Railroad. Realizing they were going to lose the race to Cheyenne, the Colorado Central began expanding west into mountain communities such as Georgetown, Black Hawk, and Central City, all areas founded on and focused in silver mining. Golden, having then sidetracked into servicing various close-by mountain communities, continued to fall behind the pace set by the Denver railroad, and by 1870, officially lost the race to Cheyenne. However, The Colorado Central Railroad connected directly with Cheyenne seven years later, in 1877, but by that point, the race with Denver had been lost. Although Golden’s Colorado Central Railroad offered a challenge to Denver’s railroad, the better funded Denver Pacific Railway was able to connect to Cheyenne far more quickly than Golden, securing for Denver its long term status as both capital and prominent city.